11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Speech Debelle- Speech Therapy LP Review (9/10),
This review is from: Speech Therapy (Digi Pack) (Audio CD)
It's not often that an album comes out of leftfield and enthuses me so much that I feel compelled to subvert the usual review style and just gush. For the sake of maintaining credibility I won't resort to saying 'This is amazing, buy it immediately' but I will avoid the usual generic intro paragraph and get right into the details.
Speech Therapy is Speech Debelle's debut full-length, having signed with Big Dada four or five years ago. Coming from a Jamaican South London family, and with a troubled background, she soon makes clear that this truly is a form of personal therapy.
If pushed to pigeonhole this release into an accepted genre, one would have to settle for 'hip hop'. As most will appreciate however, such a catch-all term tends to ignore all subtlety and originality. Indeed, on first track 'Searching', delicately picked guitar and mournful piano lines hint at something much more mature and nuanced than just 'hip hop'. This is an intriguing juxtaposition of assured rhymes, painfully honest lyics and genuinely soulful tunes... Speech Therapy is a product of influences in Roots Manuva, Norah Jones, Burial, Tracy Chapman, and Lauryn Hill but is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The immediate, most obvious detail is the evocative use of folk guitar and orchestral movements that instantly elevates this album musically above most other hip hop releases. The combination of ornate textures and accented London patter makes for an engaging listen. Further still, look beyond these flourishes and you'll find candid, intimate accounts of family, relationships, past failures and urban life, allowing you to connect with the material on a deeper level. Speech Debelle is taking you on a journey, at the end of which you may even feel you know her in some small way. This is not just 'hip hop'.
A fitting microcosm of the album is contained in penultimate track 'Finish This Album' which ironically was the first track that Speech approached Big Dada with. Lyrically the song plumbs the depths of her fears, thoughts and hopes, whilst a honey-like string motif glides along with it. The title track closes out the album with an air of melancholy, featuring some of the most gorgeous, yet sad guitar and violin on the album whilst Speech orates in sorrowful tones. It's not all gloom on the surface however; first single 'The Key' features jazzy clarinet refrains, whilst 'Spinnin' showcases a cheery ska bounce and 'Buddy Love' paints a picture of romance. Of course, paying attention to the lyrics will bring the mood back down, but for the purpose of keeping things fresh and not too downbeat, these songs work a treat. True enough, this is not just 'hip hop'.
On reflection, there a number of elements on this album which will appeal to a broad spectrum of music lovers . UK hip hop has needed a lifeline for a while and with an inevitable collaboration with Roots Manuva on 'Wheels In Motion' she plays to that crowd (whilst simultaneously superseding them). Meanwhile, the folksy guitar musings will appeal to the alternative, Juno-loving youth and the soulful, candid lyrics will be familiar to fans of story tellers like Tracy Chapman. This confluence of styles simply makes genre tags obsolete. In short, you'll be hard pressed to find another album this layered, thought provoking, and pretty all year. (Kiron Mair)
For fans of: Lauryn Hill, Roots Manuva, Jean Grae, Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Jul 2009 10:02:11 BDT
The Wolf says:
What a beautifully written review !
The album is, indeed, delightful.
Posted on 9 Sep 2009 21:46:26 BDT
Stephen Wright says:
I completely endorse all of the positive comments that this album is getting. The accolades are well deserved.
I am also really chuffed to hear today that this fine album (and Speech Debelle of course) is the winner of the 2009 Mercury Music Prize.
Steve (Age 55)
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Sep 2009 12:36:54 BDT
Mr. S. Bennett says:
The Mercury music prize winners are usually quite dividing. This one doesn't do it for me, which isn't a great surprise, in what was a poor year and poor selection of nominees. In 1995 - possibly the best year for British music for nearly 20 years they chose, out of some truly amazing albums....M People! Take this albums award with a very large pinch of salt.
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